Thursday, 29 April 2010

I've been busy sorting and arranging this morning.

I've telephoned Wick Airport to confirm that they're still happy to receive my pallet, and also checked with some of the B+Bs that I'm still booked in. All are happy, so that makes me happy too.

I assembled a long list of the bare minimum of stuff I need to carry: changes of cycling gear, clothes for the evenings and my days off, a few bike tools and spares, my laptop, various stuff and their chargers - mobile phone, camera, movie camera, Garmin 705 - wash gear, razor, maps and route info. I even filled up a couple of 750ml water bottles .................... The list was extensive but not too long. I don't want to take anything that won't be needed.

I shoved it all in a large cardboard box, picked it up and climbed on the scales. I climbed on without the box and subtracted. My stuff plus cardboard box weighs 27lbs.

This is fantastic news! Remember, the concrete block I've been pulling behind for the past few weeks weighs 40lb, so my stuff will be a breeze to tow! This means that I can take more than I assembled this morning without impinging on my towing abilities.

It looks as though Chopper and Trailer (complete with most of my gear) will be put on a pallet on Thursday next week. That gives me only six days of Chopper riding before I wave goodbye to it. We will be apart for a whole week before I pick it up at Wick on Thursday 13th May. I'll be seeing Paul in the next day or two to finalise the details. I'll put Chopper on our car bike-rack with Trailer in the back of the car for transport for wrapping. I'll make sure that I take photographs of the procedure and update this blog.

One problem I've been thinking about is that as it's all going to be wrapped in plastic, I'll need a knife to unwrap it at Wick. I won't be allowed to take my penknife on the flight, so I may have to rip it off with my bare hands! No doubt something will occur to me to get round the problem. Perhaps fit a knife in the wrapping that I can get out easily. I can't guarantee that the nice people at Wick Airport will help.

Since my 60 mile ride to Camelford and back last week, I've been out a couple of times. Only yesterday I did 26 miles, so I've not been idle.

It's all coming very quickly now! I'm getting even more nervous!

Thanks for checking in,

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I had a fantastic ride yesterday out to Camelford and back - just short of 60miles of varied terrain in beautiful weather.

Chopper and me with Trailer and Concrete left home at just after 9 yesterday morning into chilly mist and headed into Devon over Gunnislake Newbridge and plodded up the hill. Before leaving, I'd uploaded my route into my Garmin Edge 705 - I know the way easily to Camelford, but I wanted to check out my Garmin with a "course" to follow. This system shows you how long you've been cycling, how far you have yet to go, and gives you all the info including a highlighted map and directions to follow. It worked well.

At Gulworthy, I turned off onto the Lamerton road and turned left onto the B3362 for Launceston via Milton Abbot and dropped down over Greystones Bridge to enter Cornwall again.

At Launceston, I skirted the town centre and climbed the long hill up to St Stephens and headed west on the Egloskerry road. It was then that I spied a lone cyclist dressed in red heading towards me. As we passed, I greeted him with a cheery, "Good Morning!" only to receive the reply of, "Mick F?"

I shouted YES! and did a U turn to meet up. It was a chap called Rob on his way from Land's End to his home in Leicester, where he will head out to John O'Groats later in the summer. He reads the CTC Forum where I am a major contributor, and Rob had received advice about his trip and train services from the Midlands to Penzance. His train journey was a success and he was well into his second day heading to JOG. He looked fit and well, and eager to ride.

We chatted for a good ten minutes, and we parted with a smile and a wave. It's good to know that I'm part of a great community of End to End cyclists.

Through the little village of Egloskerry, up through Tresmeer and out onto the busy A395 and heading for Davidstow into the warm sunshine. I say warm, but in the shade and whizzing downhill it was chilly enough. I had stripped off my long warm top off and rode in a thin short-sleeved top. I was hot and sweaty at times, and cold and shivery at others. I couldn't win, so I stuck with the short top!

At Davidstow, I turned left onto the A39 - Atlantic Highway - for the two or three miles into Camelford. By now it was after 1pm and I was hungry. I know a small cafe in Camelford and a debated whether to have the 'Ham Egg and Chips' or the 'Tuna Mayo Baked Potato and Salad'. One thing that needed no debate was a pot of tea! and in the end, I went for the baked potato.

I leant Chopper on its stand by the front and walked in and ate! I was stuffed by the time I left at 2pm - perhaps I shouldn't have eaten so much - but I was hungry.

Camelford is in a valley and although I'd come down the long hill into the town, I had to climb out again, but this time not as far as the top as I turned off to return home by a different and slightly short route. I had programed Garmin for this route as well.

I passed over Davidstow Moor, a short way off Bodmin Moor where Rough Tor and Brown Willy (Cornwall's highest point) can be seen over on the right. On Davidstow Moor is an old WW2 aerodrome - RAF Davidstow Moor - where all the old runways are still in existence. One or two runways are in use for light aircraft and microlights in the good weather. In the 1950s they even hosted the British Grand Prix there around the perimeter roads!

The "main" road goes straight across the site now and scales an elevation of just short of 1000ft making Davidstow airfield the highest airfield in Britain.

It was windy up there, but thankfully it was behind me, and me and Chopper flew along and down down down off the moor to Altarnun. There I rested on a bench by the stream before the long slog back up hill through Fivelanes and towards the busy A30 dual carriageway.

Years ago, I found a good route to by-pass the A30 to get south to Callington. The trouble is, Altarnun and Fivelanes are all but cut off by the A30, but if you study the maps, there is a way to miss it out. It's not that I don't like major roads, but the trouble with this leg, it that you have to get over to the other side by crossing two lanes of traffic, pausing in the centre reservation, and get over another two lanes before making the B3257. This is not good on a bicycle - it's bad enough in a car.

I went under the A30 and took a tiny lane off a roundabout and weaved in and out of narrow bends and bumpy surfaces and eventually came out on the B3257 about half a mile south of the A30. Great stuff!

From there, it's plain sailing all the way home. I timed it perfectly, as just on the stoke of 5pm, I propped up Chopper and walked into the Rising Sun for a few well-earned beers. Hilary met me there soon after and at about 7, we walked the short way home.

A great day out, I feel fine and strong, and the 60 miles is enough to give me confidence that my JOGLE ride can be done.

Here's a map of my route:

Stats for the ride:
Active Cycling 6hrs 20m
Average Moving Speed 9.1mph
Total climbing 4,552ft
Average Heart Rate 136bpm
Calories Expended 5,484cals (No wonder I was hungry!)

Thanks for checking in,

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Just got back from a ride into Tavistock and back.

My lovely wife, Hilary, took a movie of me riding past.

See - I can ride it!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I rode out yesterday down to Plymouth and back. I fancied a trip to the Big City. Chopper performed faultlessly - great! Just over 40 miles on a circular route down through Tavistock and Roborough then back over the Saltash Bridge and home via Callington. Nearly five hours including a stop for a burger and a cuppa.

Although the ride through Plymouth was fairly flat, it was still a hilly ride, and as the weather was unusually chilly, I found I was getting quite cold. A hot bath sorted me out!

Thanks for checking in,

Monday, 12 April 2010

Yesterday I had a tough 38 mile ride. I took Trailer of course, and the concrete block. Both of these things will be my constant companions. The training value is superb.

I left at 9.15 into a cloudy and cool morning, knowing that the day would warm up. I took the precaution of taking a light short sleeved top this time and climbed the hill out of the valley further into Cornwall.

I took the Liskeard road out of Callington, and dropped down over the river, then climbed up and up to St Ive (pronounced s'n-eve) turning right at the Butchers Arms to Pensilva. This road climbs to nearly 900ft. Turning right again onto the B3254, I headed out through Upton Cross, Darly Ford and Congdons Shop. Here, the road crosses the B3257 and goes through Slipper Hill, South Petherwin and Daws House before reaching Launceston.

This all sounds like pretty basic stuff, but it was a VERY hilly ride and it was tiring. Some of the hills were quite steep and some of them were quite steep and quite long too! Memorable sections include the long grind to St Ive from New Bridge over the River Lynher, the shorter but steeper hill away from Berrio Bridge (also over the Lynher) up to Congdons Shop, and the steep leg away from Trekelland Bridge up to South Petherwin.

At Launceston I sat on a bench by the main A388 opposite Tesco and ate a couple of cereal bars. I took my time and rested in the sunshine. The day had turned out to be glorious as I had expected and I was glad I was wearing a short light top. I wished I'd brought sunglasses as the sunlight was shining off the roads and making me frown. As it turned out, I also should have taken suncream, as this morning, my arms are sore!

Anyway, off I went down the A388 and crossed over the A30 dual carriageway, turning off onto the unclassified road at Stourscombe. I dropped down the hill past the turning for Lawhitton and turned left onto the B3362 and headed down into the Tamar Valley and crossed into Devon.

The road then climbs and climbs and climbs. The heat of the day was getting to me, and I struggled slowly in bottom gear the 3 miles to the top. I stopped at the top in some shade for a drink, then plodded on through Milton Abbot passing the Edgecumbe Arms with the smell of beer and the sound of laughter and chat coming out of the open door. I would have loved to have propped Chopper up and gone in and sank a few pints, but I knew that it was not the best thing to do - I'd be better employed pedalling home and calling in the Rising Sun only half a mile from home!

Next came Lamerton Cross, and although I was tired, I seemed to be getting my second wind, and I powered my way towards Gulworthy to join the A390 and head home. From Gulworthy it's downhill all the way to the Tamar and cross the bridge back into Cornwall. Then it's uphill again and into Gunnislake village. (The first village in Cornwall!) Turning left, I freewheeled to the Rising Sun and sank "a few" beers. They do a lovely Otter Bitter - I recommend it!

I pushed Chopper home .......

A great ride, reliable machine, superb weather, loads of hills, good excersise, good training, great and welcome beer!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Today, I took a concrete block onto Dartmoor. One concrete block weighs 40lb, so I removed the puny Yellow Pages and replaced them with a real load! This would give me some training and also show any problems with Chopper. I'd like to think that 40lb would be about the same weight of all the stuff I'll be carrying with me to Land's End.

Off I went, into the cool morning, whizzing down to cross the river into Devon, and up and up out of the valley and through to Tavistock. I took the Princetown road, and I knew that very soon I was going to get to a Real Hill! The road onto Dartmoor is not for the inexperienced cyclist. Pork Hill is a monster.

It starts innocently enough, then Bang! a 1 in 5 just past Mount Tavy School. It levels out a bit, then starts to climb, and climb and climb. I pulled over into a layby at 760ft elevation. My calves were burning, and I was breathing heavily. I leant Chopper onto its propstand and took this photograph:

It was turning into a glorious day, and I was a little over-dressed. As it was chilly when I left home, I'd worn a long sleeved base layer and a long sleeved top. As I rested, I took off the base layer and rolled my sleeves and unzipped the front a bit. It was better, but with hindsight, I'd have been even better with a short sleeved top. I had the stowage space after all! In one pannier I had tools and spare inner tubes, and in the other I had a waterproof top. It would have been simple to have brought a change of top. Oh well, maybe next time.

Off again, and I climbed to the top of Pork Hill. Then it's down into Merrivale and up a wall of a hill back out again! Still up, but thankfully not too steeply, right to the summit of 1460ft at Rundlestone Cross.

All the way up, I'd been listening to the skylarks twittering and singing high in the blue sky. Every so often a knot of traffic would go by spoiling the tranquillity, but the skylarks could be heard above it all, even above my rasping breath!

At Rundlestone, I turned right and headed into the rather un-lovely town of Princetown. The place has had money pumped into it over the last few years, as it was becoming run down. In days gone by, the prison guards all lived in the town, but nowadays, the old married quarters have been sold off and the guards don't have to live on-site any more. Also, Dartmoor prison is no longer maximum security, so it needs less staff. The cash injection has allowed for more building - shops and homes, and perhaps Princetown can thrive again. Tourists are the main thing now, and as I arrived, two coach-loads did too! The people swarmed out and into the cafes and shops. I chatted to a couple who had spotted Chopper, and I regaled them of my intentions. They were suitably impressed.

Off again, and I headed for Peek Hill down to Yelverton. I say 'down' but I still had some miles to do though the bleakness that is Dartmoor. I was starting to tire, and longing for lunch! My ride would only be 30 miles, but it was a hard 30 miles. I knew I'd be home by 1.30. Lunch and a cuppa beckoned!

At the top of Peek Hill I rested again.

This is one of my favourite views. You can see right over to Bodmin Moor, you can see Tavistock, Walkhampton, Horrabridge, Yelverton and even as far as home in Gunnislake. Over the other side, you can see down to Plymouth and Plymouth Sound, right into the English Channel and along the coast both east and west. Photographs cannot do it justice. You have to be there on a day like today, and just gaze!

Down and down and down, through Dousland past the Burrator Inn and into Yelverton. Then onto the A386 down through Horrabridge and up to Grenofen, then down to Tavistock. Phew! I was definitely tiring now!

I rested again at Tavistock and then wound my way along the A390 and home. I paused a few minutes to chat to some people that were gazing at me from the carpark of the Harvest Home. They'd just had a meal and had seen me struggling up the hill. I was only too pleased to pull over and rest! They were fairly local, so I promised I'd hand in some info and leaflets about my ride. They took photographs and one with me posing too!

Then home.

Lunch and a cuppa, then writing this whilst it all digests.

All in all, the ride has been a great success. The weight, though heavy work, was about right. The ride was just about the toughest I could have done. There is no leg of my JOGLE that would be as tough - longer, yes - but tougher, no. I have a smile on my face, even though I'm tired.

Thanks again,
Regards to all,

Monday, 5 April 2010

Today, I thought I'd have another go at filming something interesting. I'd failed yesterday big-time, so off I went, back up the hill to film my descent. This time it worked!

Max speed was 41.8mph. Watching the movie seems like watching the Cresta Run!

If you want to see my route, click on this link:

A quick view is this:

Thanks again,

Sunday, 4 April 2010

I fitted a camera mount onto Chopper's handlebars so that I could mount my new Sony Handycam. It's a rather cheap and nasty affair - the clamp that is! - but it does the job quite well.

Off I went this morning into the spring sunshine, but with the threat of showers, to do a short ride and film some of it. I would have filmed much more, but the camera came with only a puny battery, so most of what I wanted to do was a complete waste of time! Anyway, here's a ten minute film of what it looks like from the front of a Chopper riding along the busy A390 on an Easter Sunday morning.

The sun shone, but at times the road was soaking, although it never rained on me. The camera lens became splashed with spray, so I apologise for the lack of clarity. Also, the black lines you can see on either side of the screen are the brake/gear cables. I'll try and secure them out of the way for next time.

I started the recording at the top of the hill west of Gunnislake, and carried on into Callington and stopped by Ginsters, the pasty people. From there, I turned north and then east again at Kelly Bray and headed back down into Gunnislake down its infamous hill. I carried on through the village and right down to the river.

The trouble is, all the filming I did from Callington onwards never completed itself, therefore the video file never closed properly so I lost it. Flat batteries don't work. I'll try and do the downhill bit again tomorrow, and make doubly sure the battery is fully charged.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

At 10.15 this morning, me and Chopper with Trailer in tow entered the hall at Gunnislake school. I was nervous.

The kids filed in and sat cross legged on the floor. They sat in rows and were silent. Perfectly behaved kids? Do they exist? They did at Gunnislake School this morning!

Earlier, I'd parked my contraption in the school entrance waiting for the hall to be ready and was offered a cuppa in the staff room. Some of the older boys were looking at Chopper, and I listened to their comments. "Cool!" "Awesome!!" were the main ones. Kids have always liked Raleigh Choppers. Awful bikes, but great fun to own. A design classic.

The time came for me to wheel in, and I arranged myself and rig at the far end, standing Chopper on his prop-stand. I'd designed a map of the British Isles and blown it up to A2, having stuck it onto a board and it stood there to one side for all to see.

I introduced myself and then off I went with my stuff about where John O'Groats is, and all the places I'll be stopping on my way to Land's End. The kids listened intently. I described all the bits on Chopper, showed them my trailer-box and panniers, and even demonstrated the SPD system showing them the underside of my shoes.

Then I took questions from the floor. I have no idea how many questions there were, but I answered plainly and simply. Some of the questions:
"How many days will it take you?"
"How long will you be cycling each day?"
"What will you eat?"
"What will you do if the food is yukky?"
"How are you going to get to Scotland?"
"What is that stick thing for?"
"How much money are you going to raise?"

To this last question, I answered, "As much as possible." then added, "A million pounds!" They all giggled. The kids break up today for Easter, and they'll all be taking home a note about my ride - and a sponsor sheet too. Maybe some sponsorship pledges will start to roll in.

Afterwards, the head of the infants class took me and Chopper + Trailer plus two of the little kids for a photograph. I stood to one side in the sunshine, and we held hands for a publicity shot for the press.

I came away with a smile and glassy eyes.